Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Frozen Forest

Here's a short fantasy story I wrote for a competition.  I did it in a fairytale style.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


The hall is astoundingly huge - a polyhedron of impossible dimensions formed of some sort of semi-transparent crystal.  Through the glass-like surfaces stars and galaxies wheel in a spectrum of incandescence... and every surface is covered in doors.  Wooden doors and metal doors, opaque glass doors and even some stone doors.  There is no clue to where they might lead, no marking or symbol upon them.  There is no guide in the hall, nothing but vast empty space between them.  It is not until you find the key that you notice the key-holes...
But which door to use the key on?
You walk to a stone door and peer through.  Beyond is a planet of orange and red swirling clouds, its moons slowly spinning around one another.  You look through the next door, black glass, and see a rocky, lifeless world, cratered and grey.  You walk a few paces before seeing what lies behind a wooden door - this one is a bright mass of blue and green with rings encircling its waist.
Each door you look through shows you a new world.  Some you know are not places you should go - whether they are meant for others or no one you can't tell, but you are certain they are not meant for you.  With others the only thing that stops you from turning the key in the lock and stepping through there and then is the niggling feeling that another door might hold a better world - might be a better match.
You walk and walk and look and look, telling yourself that when you see your world, the path that was meant for you, you'll know, and then, and only then will you use the key.
But you're never certain.  There are too many doors to see them all - and you know that by the time you have walked the length of the hall you would have forgotten what you had seen at the start anyway. You stop and look back and forth, trying to decide on how many more doors you should look through until you choose.
You know that whichever you do choose, you will always wonder what lay beyond a different door.
But still, better to see a world in all its glory and life and magnificence than to always stand on the edge...
Time to make the choice.  

Monday, 30 March 2015


Bob was a wizard.  He lived in a tower which you could only reach by crossing the swampy forest.  It made getting the groceries a little inconvenient, but he never lacked for leeches or toads for his spells.  Now and then he would get visitors - Knights asking for magic swords, Peasants asking for potions, and sometimes even Kings asking for counsel.  Most of the time what he gave them was common sense advice instead, but as long as he made some sparks puff from the end of his staff and his voice boom, they would go away happy.  Some of them even took the advice, too.
One day he was sitting in his tower when there was a thump thump thump at the door.  He glanced out of the window to see who his guest was (it always impressed if he could greet them by name) but he could only see a little girl.
A peasant come for a potion, no doubt, he thought.  He scanned his shelf of ready made concoctions - mostly healing potions - and satisfied he probably had what she wanted, swept on his starry robe, grabbed his staff and made his way down the spirally stairs.
He swung the door open dramatically and in his deep grand voice said:
"Welcome little girl!  I am Robert the Remarkable!  Keeper of the tower and magical secrets!  For what do you seek me out today?"
The girl stared up at him, her eyes as big a saucers, a wooden walking stick clutched to her chest.  For a moment Bob thought that maybe he'd overdone his greeting and frightened her into silence - she was very small.  But no, suddenly her face lit up into the biggest grin he had ever seen.
"Wow that was great!" she bounced up and down, then her face went serious again and she cleared her throat.  When next she spoke, she was attempting to put on a deep booming voice.  "My name is Emily the Extraordinary!  I have come to be your apprentice!"
"You what?" Bob said, forgetting to make his voice deep or booming.
"I brought my own staff and everything!"  She held up the walking stick proudly.
"Oh.  Um, well aren't you a little young to be a wizard's apprentice?" he asked gently.
"No.  My Mum said I could."
"Where's your Mum now?"  He looked around, expecting to see a woman on the path from the forest - perhaps the girl had ran ahead.
"At home," she replied.
"You walked through the swampy forest yourself?  Don't you know that's dangerous?!" Bob was amazed that she hadn't gotten eaten by a crocodile - or worse.
"It's ok, I already know a spell."  She grinned proudly.  "I used it if I met anyone, to protect myself, just like Mum said."
"Really?"  Bob was impressed, despite knowing he ought to take her straight back home.  "Which spell?"
He wasn't ready for it, else maybe he could have stopped her.  He was expecting her to create some kind of shield, or a smoke screen or something.
"FROGGUS CROAKUS!" the girl yelled, pointing her walking stick at him.
"Noo-ibbit!" Bob shouted.  She turned me into a frog!  "Ribbit!  Turn me back!"
"Oh," Emily looked down at him.  "I don't know that one."
As soon as she'd finished speaking a dozen frogs hopped out of the forest, along the path to the tower, to his front door.
"There she is!" one of them croaked.  "Turn us back!  Or we'll tell the wizard that lives here what you've done!"
Well, thought Bob, this is going to be embarrassing when they realise who I am.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


The man from the city read a book on camping.  It told him what he would need; tent, stove, USB solar charger (to make sure your phone was charged - mustn't forget your phone), pots and pans, spork, boil in the bag meals, energy bars, water bottle, sleeping bag, canvas trousers that zip off at the knees, a shirt, a waterproof jacket and a fleece, hat, walking stick (come in a range of colours), hiking boots, thick socks, compass, first aid kit, torch, whistle... the list went on and on.  He considered it carefully and went to the camping shop where he bought the best quality two-man tent (this one wouldn't even get blown away in a hurricane! the salesman claimed), clothes and a gas stove, cooking pots (specifically for the gas stove), eating utensils and a selection of silver foil vacuum packed meals.  He chose a blue walking stick, and ended up buying two, because the salesman insisted two was better.  He got the charger and the torch and the whistle, maps and a guide book.
Finally he was ready to go.  He drove to the campsite, pitched his tent, and chatted to the other campers - compared walking sticks and solar chargers, then phones.  He enjoyed discussing their cars, parked in the carpark, and which did the most miles to the gallon.  They ate the boil-in-the-bag curries, but didn't really enjoy them.  Still that was part of camping.  He used his twin walking sticks to hike around the marked trail through the wood, while chatting on the phone to his brother about being in the wilderness... oh and had he played that new video game set in a forest yet?
When the man went home, he was satisfied.  He had done camping properly, just like the book had told him to do.

A man from the city decided to go camping.  His cousin had an old tent he could borrow, so he shoved a few things he thought he might need into a backpack and set out.  He found a good place to pitch his tent in the campsite, and collected some sticks to build a fire.  He chatted to the other campers about different places they had been, mountains and lakes and valleys that he should visit.  One of them showed him how to catch fish from the river and which plants you could eat, and they baked the fish and the tubers in the fire.  They were delicious.  Afterwards the man shared a bag of marshmallows, which they toasted over the fire on green twigs.  The next day they went walking.  The man found a sturdy stick to use as a walking stick, and one of the other campers explained how he could even carve it and keep it as a memento of his trip.  He saw birds and animals scurrying across their path, and that night he looked up and saw the stars for the first time.  When the man went home he was satisfied.  He had done camping properly, he felt it in his bones.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Coming Home

It's been a long time.  Six years, nine months, and four days.  I've marched through jungles and deserts, I met the enemy in forests and towns.  Rain swirled with fire, dust blew with ash.  I forgot what life was before.  I tried to remember sunny days by the coast, the sun, the sand the waves, but all I could see when I closed my eyes was the baking stretches of desert and the crash of shells and mortars.  I tried to imagine my family - my children, what would they look like now?  I couldn't conjure it - they are still babies in my mind.
But now they tell us that the war is over.  We no longer have to fight - we can go home.  They loaded us onto ships and we spent long weeks on the ocean.  Every unfamiliar bang or creak had us panicking and reaching for our rifles - but no, we no longer needed them.  Finally we were free once more.  We spoke of our dreams.  Friends I had known for half a decade spoke of farming and gardens, flowers and walks in the country with such life and enthusiasm... we spoke of a paradise.  No war, no fear, no death, just families laughing, roses at the door, bread on the table.
But it seems the war didn't just happen overseas.
My family are tired-eyed and fearful.  My children hide from me - the stranger that has come home.  They live in canvas now, and their rations are worse than what we were fed on the march.  The townsfolk have hollow eyes and thin faces.  There is no laughter.  We take a walk through the old village, up the lane where we would walk holding hands and picking blackberries in the sun.
I stand before my home, an empty shell of blackened brick and shattered glass.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


"The thing about learning to fly a spaceship is there is no "up" in the conventional sense... however... things can still be above you," the instructor pointed out with tired patience.
"Yeah, uh sorry about that.  I didn't see him," the student fidgeted in the pilot's chair, making the old leather creak.
"No need to apologise to me," the instructor replied.  "I have insurance."  He glanced up at the huge freighter that they had become entangled with.
"The question is, do they?"
"They're bound to, right?  I mean, a ship that size..."
"That's a Blogspart ship."
"Oh.  I've never met a Blogspart.  But I've heard that they're rich right...?  There's not much damage... maybe-"
There was a echoing knock on the airlock.  Both instructor and student glanced back over their shoulder.
"I hope you know how to fight better than you know how to steer."
"The Blogspart aren't known for talking."  The instructor got up and went to the airlock control.
"You're not going to let it in?!" the student wailed.
"Prepare yourself."
He pressed the green panel, and the airlock opened.  A tiny alien, not more than a foot tall, waddled onto the ship.
"I just wanted to let you know, the antenna on your ship snapped off.  We can fix that if you like?"
"Oh that would be very kind of you.  We'll pay for the damage, of course."
"No need, no need.  It's just a scratch.  Well, good luck with your lessons.  Don't forget to look up next time!"  The alien waved at the student and then waddled off, back out the airlock.
"I thought you said that we'd need to fight?" the student asked, once the Blogspart was gone.
"Got them mixed up with the Blagsport," his instructor shrugged.  "Blogspart are lovely."
It didn't take long for the Blogspart to fix the antenna and untangle the two ships.
"Now, take us out of the port."
The student nodded and hit the upper thrusters.  The ship lurched downwards and banged into a skiff.
"Oh," his instructor said.  "That's a Blagsport ship."

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Book of Directions

The book is older than it looks.  The leather is still supple, the gold embossed on the cover still bright.  "The book of Directions" is written above a symbol - arrows spreading out in a star.  You flip it open on a random page.  There is an arrow pointing down the centre of the page, in solid black ink.  Around it, the text is handwritten, but as clear as print.  It says only three words:  "You are here."